Avvenire wanted to know my opinion of Putin, of his invasion, of Europe’s and America’s role, of what this war means for Europe and, of course, they wanted me to explain my support for a diplomatic solution based on the idea of an independent, free, neutral Ukraine. Here is the original English text.
What is your opinion of Putin’s decisions?
He will be included in History’s annals in the chapter reserved for brutal leaders who chose an avoidable war (rather than be forced into one). Long before Ukraine, to establish his regime, he had committed abominable war crimes in Chechnya. My greatest fear is that, if Ukrainians continue to resist bravely (which, make no mistake, I want them to!), he will flatten Kiyv with the same brutality that he demolished Grozny, killing tens of thousands of civilians.
What evolution, what final outcome do you see? A neutral Ukraine or other solutions?
The objective should be to stop the war and secure the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. The only way that could happen is a Washington-Moscow agreement that Russia withdraws in exchange of a commitment of Ukrainian neutrality. Anything else is war mongering. Or, at best, a touching faith that Putin will fall soon and a pro-Western regime will rise in Russia.
What mistakes have European countries made to get to this point?
Regarding Ukraine, Europe’s greatest error was to defer to Washington and to NATO. Washington misled successive Ukrainian governments with promises the United States was never going to keep, egging them on toward a confrontation with Moscow that endangered peace in Europe. In an important sense, the United States succeeded in justifying the expansion of NATO with the argument that NATO was the only shield from tensions the United States had helped create. Washington did not care about Ukraine or Europe. And Europe blindly played along, serving Washington’s interests by going along with America’s investment in tensions with Russia. History will condemn EU leaders for falling behind the US agenda and, for this, reason failing to fulfil the EU’s fundamental promise to Europeans: No war on our Continent.
Does the Biden presidency have responsibility?
Of course. Along with every US administration since Bill Clinton and George W Bush violated the agreement between the US and Michail Gorbachov that the Soviet Union would let go of Eastern European countries but NATO would not expand eastwards.
Is it lawful to arm those who defend themselves?
Of course. I only wish that we armed all those who are defending their homes; e.g., Palestinians, Yemenis, Syrians, Kurds. Instead, Europe is arming or consorting with their invaders. These double standards are weakening Europe’s credibility and influence.
Do you see a reaction with the same force of the pacifist movement as in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan?
The pacifist movement has failed badly in the two cases you mentioned. Before George W Bush invaded Iraq, we held magnificent rallies around Europe and in the United States. But the moment the invasion was unleashed, we went to ground. Nothing. No real resistance. And I think it is very telling that Julian Assange, who furnished us with remarkable information regarding the crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now rotting in Britain’s Guantanamo without much in terms of public support – with the exception of DiEM25 and our Progressive International. In the case of Ukraine, it is too early to tell. So far, those of us taking an anti-war stance are being vilified as stooges of Putin. Hopefully this will change
After the bonds for the first common debt, for the first time Europe decides on offensive military spending. Step forward or backward?
The EU has not been as shy as many thought in issuing common debt. Since 2010 the Greek financial crash, a process began of indebting Europeans jointly. Later, the European Stability Mechanism created another half trillion euros worth of common debt. During the pandemic, the Recovery Fund was based on another €750 billion of common debt. Yes, common debt is a necessary condition for political union. However, it is not sufficient and, worse still, it can push us in the wrong direction (“i.e. of greater disunity). To be sufficient, the common debt issued must play the role of converting national into European debt automatically, without horse-trading between politicians, and in the context of a federal-like, democratically controlled, joint finance ministry. Tragically, today, we are further away from this than ever. In short, we have issued common debt for a variety of reasons but always in a manner that keeps political union beyond the horizon.
Does the EU lose its nature as a community that helps itself in peace? Or is this war an opportunity to have a common army and to strengthen political union?
A common army only makes sense if we have a common, directly elected government. A common army under the present inter-governmental decision-making process is ridiculous. Who will order these men and women to go to war? Ursula von der Layen? Macron? Scholz? Or will we have the EU Council jointly to oversee military operations? So, before we talk about a common army, we need to start the process that no one is talking about: the process of creating a democratic, federal EU.
What do you think of a new suspension of the Stability Pact? What must be done to help companies and citizens in this new crisis?
The Stability Pact must be trashed, not suspended. And it must be replaced with a process of europeanising a large part of public debt and aggregate green investment. Anything less than that will deepen the divisions within our countries and between our countries.
How do you see the world and Europe after this war?